NASVHILLE, Tenn. (WROC) — Duke Williams looked into the mirror before he made his NFL debut for the Bills Sunday against the Titans.
He likely reminisced about his journey to that moment. Two years as JuCo star in Mississippi. Going to Auburn, where he was kicked off the team during his senior year after getting into a fight with a teammate.
Two seasons in CFL where he dominated and rehabilitated his image. Starting the season on the practice squad in Buffalo and making nearly weekly highlight reel catches.
After all that, Williams looked into the mirror and saw a man about to play in the NFL for the first time.
And he cried.
Then, he became a hero.
Williams caught the go ahead touchdown with just under ten minutes to play in the game. It was an incredible exclamation point to an impressive career comeback.
“It took me a long time to get back here,” Williams said. “I know everybody was probably like, ‘he ain’t gonna do it’. I stayed down. I had to. Humbled myself. Grew as a man and started to put everybody else first besides myself. And that’s what I’m going to continue to do.”
After the Bills finished off their 14-7 win, Williams took many minutes on the field celebrating with the tens of thousands of Buffalo fans in attendance at Nissan Stadium in Nashville.
No one was happier than his teammates. Josh Allen made sure to find Williams for a bearhug in the tunnel heading to the locker room.
“We all knew what Duke can do. You guys know what Duke can do,” Jordan Phillips said. “He’s a dawg. He’s a monster. We brought him up for that reason. We knew he was gonna make the play and he came in and made the play.”
“We all knew Duke was gonna come in here and do what he does every day in practice,” Dion Dawkins said. “It was extremely exciting and almost emotional that moment has finally came for him.”
Very few might remember that the other touchdown in this game was caught by Lee Smith. It was only the eighth TD catch of his nine year career and likely quite a moment for a guy who makes his money much more as a blocker.
Yet, Smith said he could have caught ten touchdown passes on this day and it still would have been less satisfying than seeing Williams’ success.
“He’s special. He’s different. He’s gotta keep playing good ball. We’re not going to give him a gold (Hall of Fame) jacket yet,” Smith said. “But, I can promise you everyone in this locker room loves that guy. He’s just the best. He’s the kind of guy you want in a bar fight.”
Williams finished with four receptions for 29 yards. That included a third down converting catch to keep alive the Bills first TD drive.
He continuously thanked his teammates, his coaches and the Bills managment for their roles in his touchdown catch and for giving him the opportunity. Williams said when the play for his touchdown was called in the huddle, there was no way he wasn’t making the catch.
“I had my ups and downs. I was discouraged,” Williams said. “I had my thoughts about ‘it’s over’, but God wasn’t done with me.”
And neither are the Bills.